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Should All Bike Riders Be Required To Wear Helmets?

Should All Bike Riders Be Required To Wear Helmets?

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A new bill in the California legislature would require adults to wear helmets. Anyone riding without a helmet could be cited and fined up to $25. Bike riders under the age of 18 have been required to wear helmets in California since 1994.

Proponents of the bill say it only makes sense to protect all bicyclists from severe head injuries if they have an accident.

"Any responsible bicycle rider should wear a helmet," said Sen. Carol Liu (D-La Cañada Flintridge) who authored the Senate Bill 192. "This law will help protect more people and make sure all riders benefit from the head protection that a helmet provides. "

Under the bill, all riders would also be required to wear reflective clothing when cycling at night.

But many bicycle advocates, including the San Diego County Bike Coalition, said it's the wrong approach and requiring helmets would actually make biking less safe.

Andy Hanshaw, executive director of the coalition, said helmets shouldn't be mandatory because it could decrease the number of riders.

"We do encourage helmet use," Hanshaw told KPBS Midday Edition on Monday. "However, we do not support mandatory helmet laws because it has shown to be a deterrent. If we can get more people riding for transportation, our streets can become safer."

Hanshaw said people may choose to not use a helmet for various reasons.

"It could be an economic factor. It could be that be people just don't have helmets. It's their choice and they know their route," he said.

Dr. Michael Sise, trauma medical director for Scripps Mercy Hospital, said the bill is worth implementing for health and economic reasons.

"For every $10 spent on a bicycle helmet, you save $570 on societal costs," said Sise who said millions of dollars are spent each year on chronic rehabilitation. "It's not too much to ask for."

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